News Digest 31 October 2014

The Trouble With Yemen
Businessweek — 29 October 2014
In interviews with Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East, a number of those manning People’s Committee checkpoints say that they are longstanding members of Ansar Allah, or “Partisans of God”, the Houthis’ preferred name for their movement. But roughly the same proportion say that they joined the movement on or around 21 September, as the Houthi militias were completing their rout of First Armoured. The vast majority of this second group are supporters of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president, and the General People’s Congress (GPC), Yemen’s historical ruling party. Saleh was ousted in a 2011 uprising after leading the country for 33 years. Meanwhile, senior government and diplomatic sources say it is no coincidence that the People’s Committees are split between the pro-Houthi and Saleh camps: they believe that Saleh played an active role in the fall of First Armoured and the takeover of the capital.

A Bloody Conundrum Beckons As Yemen Slides Into Civil War
Newsweek — 29 October 2014
While events in Yemen cannot be reduced to a simple Sunni-versus-Shia binary because they are rooted in historical conflicts of family and tribe, it may end up turning into that sort of war. Houthis militias have expanded southward from the capital and entered territory that is controlled by al-Qaida. The ensuing hostilities have killed dozens of fighters and at least 10 civilians, according to reports. “The average Yemeni is not scared of the Houthis’ military checkpoints. But the average Yemeni is scared of the suicide bombings,” says Sarah Jamal, a Sanaa-based independent researcher. “When we hear news on the radio that the Houthis are battling al-Qaida in the countryside, people’s first reaction in Sana’a is to worry that al-Qaida is going to get us back here in the city.”

Abaad Report: The south’s separation countdown
Yemen Times — 21 October 2014
According to a report released last week by the Abaad Studies and Research Center, southerners in Yemen feel that after the Houthis seized control over Sana’a their time has come to achieve independence from the north. The Houthis are an armed group prevalent in the north that effectively took control over Yemen’s capital on Sept. 21. “Yemenis in the south feel now is their chance for self-determination and separation from the north,” the report read.

Prime minister allocates ministries, JMP opposes
Yemen Times — 28 October 2014
Prime Minister Khalid Bahah announced the distribution of ministry positions on Saturday, more than a month after the National Peace and Partnership Agreement was signed on Sept. 21. Bahah specified that of the 34 cabinet seats, nine positions will go to the General People’s Congress (GPC) “and its alliances,” nine to the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) “and partners,” six to the Southern Movement, and six to the Houthis.   “The appointment of ministers for the four sovereign ministries is the responsibility of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi,” he added, referring to the ministries of defense, foreign affairs, finance, and interior.

Imam’s grandson returns to Sana’a
Yemen Times — 28 October 2014
More than 52 years after the Sept. 26 revolution which toppled the reign of the Hameed Al-Deen family in 1962, the grandson of Yahya Hameed Al-Deen, who ruled north Yemen from 1911 until 1948, returned to Sana’a on Friday night. Mohammad Hameed Al-Deen arrived in Sana’a from Saudi Arabia. “My return to the lands of my fathers and grandfathers came after the September 21 revolution which created a new reality and eradicated the corrupt forces ruling the country,” Mohammed Hameed Al-Deen told the GPC-owned Khaber News Agency on arrival at the airport.

JMP threatens to boycott government
Yemen Times — 23 October 2014
The Supreme Council of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) on Tuesday sent a letter to President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi claiming they will not be a part of the government if they do not receive what they perceive to be fair representation. They did, however, say that regardless of their representation “the JMP are willing to support the upcoming government, even if there is no equal distribution of ministries between the parties who signed the [Peace and National] Partnership Agreement.”

Draft constitution 80 percent complete
Yemen Times — 23 October 2014
Under the auspices of the General Secretariat of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), the Taiz Center for Human Rights (TCHR) on Tuesday organized a discussion panel on the drafting of Yemen’s new constitution. The panel, which was attended by NDC members, media representatives, and human rights activists, discussed the latest developments of the Constitution Drafting Committee.

Sana’a’s governor resigns
Yemen Times — 21 October 2014
Sana’a Governor Abdulghani Jameel resigned from his post on Sunday after armed men stormed the governorate’s headquarters and besieged his house in Sana’a on Saturday. Jameel told the Khabar News Agency, which is associated with the General People’s Congress, that he resigned due to the deteriorating security situation in Sana’a governorate. “I resigned because I can’t bear the responsibility of the current situation in Yemen. There is a serious conspiracy that is plotted against Sana’a governorate by some people who care only for their personal interests and want the country to plunge into an unknown future,” he said. Jameel’s resignation came after dozens of armed men besieged his house and stormed the Sana’a governorate’s headquarters on Saturday, demanding his resignation.

Southern Movement:
South Yemen separatists turn out to demand independence
AFP via Al-Arabiya — 24 October 2014
Thousands of southern Yemenis turned out in Aden Friday to demand independence for their once sovereign region, as rebels from the north press to expand their control over more of the impoverished country. Yemen continues to reel under the impact of the expansion by Shiite rebels, after they overran the capital last month and seized a major port unopposed, before clashing with Sunni tribes and Al-Qaeda south of Sanaa. The demonstrators gathered in Aden’s Parade Square to mark a “Day of Anger” called by the Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Peaceful Movement for the Liberation and Independence of the South, a new coalition of two major separatist groups.

Southern Movement pitches camps in Mukalla
Yemen Times — 23 October 2014
The Southern Movement on Monday set up camps in Mukalla city of Hadramout governorate, calling for the south’s independence. The camps will remain in place indefinitely, according to sources affiliated with the Southern Movement in Hadramout. The encampments in Mukalla follow the establishment of similar protest camps on Oct. 14 in Aden city.

Yemen’s Houthis give cabinet seats to southerners
Middle East Eye — 27 October 2014
Houthi rebels in Yemen have officially announced that they will not be part of the new government, as the establishment parties continue to lock horns over the distribution of ministries. Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the group, said on Friday in a televised speech that the group would relinquish their seats to the southerners. “We will not take part in the government. We will place our seats [in the cabinet] at the disposal of our brothers in the south,” he said. The Houthis – also locally known as Ansar Allah – sparked massive rallies on 18 August in the capital Sana’a, demanding that the government resign over its economic polices. The rebels faced little resistance from armed men and some army units when they grabbed government and military buildings in the capital on 21 September, pushing President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to sign a peace deal.

South Yemen MPs back separatist protests
AFP via Daily Star — 27 October 2014
Deputies from southern Yemen voiced support on Monday for protests demanding the secession of their formerly independent regions, emboldened by an expansion of Shiite rebel control in the north. Southern activists began on October 14 a campaign of protests, including an indefinite sit-in demonstration in Aden, the capital of the former South Yemen. The campaign comes as Yemen reels in the wake of the Shiite rebel seizure of Sanaa and the port of Hudeida in recent weeks, followed by clashes with Sunni tribes and Al-Qaeda south of the capital.

Southern Movement forms new supreme council
Yemen Times — 28 October 2014
The Southern Movement held a press conference in Aden on Sunday, announcing that the movement’s two existing councils have been merged into one, representing all southerners. The new council is called “The Supreme Council of the Revolutionary and Peaceful Southern Movement.” The Southern Movement’s first council was formed in 2009 and was called the “Supreme Council of the Peaceful Southern Movement for Freeing the South.” In September 2013, the second council emanated from the first, called the “Supreme Council of the Peaceful Revolution for Freeing the South.”

Yemen’s Houthis capture strategic city
Al-Jazeera — 29 October 2014
Yemen’s Houthi rebels have captured a key city linking the capital to the south as they push to control more territory of the country. The Shia fighters captured the strategic central city of Radmah in Ibb province on Wednesday, a city that links Sanaa with the main southern city of Aden, after prolonged fighting with local tribesmen, the AFP news agency reported. Tribal sources said that nine fighters from both sides were killed during the battle for the city, known to be a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islah party.

Houthis organize traffic in the capital
Yemen Times — 28 October 2014
In spite of the Houthis’ claims of good intentions, some drivers are complaining about their inability to properly manage traffic. “Armed Houthi men have no experience and no training in traffic management and are therefore unequipped to manage intersections,” says Ameen Abdulbary, while impatiently waiting to pass one of Hayal Street’s crossroads. Unfamiliar with basic traffic signs, Houthis are at times accused by of causing, rather than preventing, traffic jams. Others defend the Houthis’ “noble goal” of disburdening their fellow citizens. Majdi Abubaker, a driver who thinks that Houthis’ traffic signals should be respected, commends their “service” as helpful in resolving traffic jams.

Yemen’s Al Houthis demand recruitment in army
Gulf News — 26 October 2014
Al Houthi rebels have demanded the newly appointed government to recruit thousands of their supporters into the army and security forces, a month after they tightened their grip on Sana’a and many other provinces in northern Yemen. Al Houthi rebels have been in the centre of the political landscape in the troubled country since they gained control of key government buildings in the capital on September 21. They forced the government to resign and forced it to reverse the controversial lifting of fuel subsidies.

Houthis to officially join police
Yemen Times — 30 October 2014
Sana’a’s police announced on Tuesday that members of the Houthis will officially be made a part of the security apparatus within the upcoming days. Colonel Abdulrazaq Al-Moayed, the security chief of Sana’a, told Azal TV Channel on Tuesday that Houthi members in Sana’a will receive security training before they start working with the police.

Yemen’s Houthis dismantle Sanaa airport road camp, gunmen remain
Al-Jazeera — 19 October 2014
Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi group dismantled a protest camp blocking the country’s main airport in Sanaa on Sunday, authorities said, but was keeping its fighters on the streets of the recently seized capital. The dismantling of the encampment, which allowed traffic to move unobstructed between the airport and the capital for the first time in weeks, came as newly appointed Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations, flew back home to take up his post as part of an agreement aimed at stabilising the conflict-prone country.

Houthis break into state oil company
Yemen Times — 21 October 2014
More than twenty armed Houthis broke into the Sana’a office of the state-run Safer Exploration & Production Operations Company on Sunday, a source in the company told the Yemen Times. The employee chose to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal from the Houthis who have been stationed near the company for over a month. He said Houthis are guarding the gate of the company, searching every employee when they enter or leave the compound.

The Houthis Are Battling al Qaeda Amid a ‘Slow-Burning Coup’ in Yemen
VICE — 28 October 2014
A “slow-burning coup.” That’s what a government official says to VICE News when asked how the Houthis were able to take Sanaa with such ease in September. He blames the group’s success on former Yemen President Ali Abdulla Saleh, who was ousted after 33 years in power by popular unrest and infighting among elites in 2011. According to the official, Saleh was furious when Islah, Yemen’s main Sunni Islamist party, and Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a conservative Sunni military commander and onetime Saleh loyalist, split from his regime during the Arab Spring. The official believes Saleh has been hell-bent on revenge ever since. Khaled, who lives in central Sanaa but was working outside the capital during the fighting there, described his surprise to VICE News upon returning to find friends and acquaintances who were agnostic in their politics manning Houthi checkpoints in the city center. “I know these people,” he said. “They aren’t Houthis. They… couldn’t care less about the Houthis.”

Ten civilians killed as Yemeni Houthis advance into Qaeda stronghold
Reuters — 27 October 2014
Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters backed by government fire thrust into strongholds of al Qaeda and its Sunni tribal allies in the centre of Yemen on Sunday, killing around 10 civilians, local tribesmen said. They said the Yemeni army pounded local tribes and fighters of al Qaeda’s local wing, Ansar al-Sharia, with air strikes, artillery and Katuysha rockets in al-Baydah province, about 160 km (100 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa.

Officials: Clash in Yemen town kills 250 in 3 days
AP via Al-Arabiya — 27 October 2014
Fighting in central Yemen between Shiite Houthi rebels and an influential tribe in the town of Radda killed at least 250 people over three days of clashes, security officials said Monday. The violence in Yemen’s central Bayda province saw fighters from the strong Qifa tribe force the Houthis out of the Manasih area in Radda, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak to journalists.

Suicide bomber in Yemen kills 20 Houthi fighters: sources
Reuters — 27 October 2014
A suicide car bomber killed about 20 Houthi fighters in central Yemen late on Sunday including a prominent tribal leader who had just defected to the Shi’ite Muslims’ side, tribal sources said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility nor confirmation of the attack from the government, whose forces barely operate in the area, but the leader of al Qaeda’s local branch has vowed to respond to the Houthi capture of his group’s strongholds in al-Manasseh area in the Qifa tribal region.

Surge in fighting threatens Yemen’s survival
CNN — 23 October 2014
Yemen is going through its greatest upheaval since protests erupted during the Arab Spring more than three years ago. Only this time, it’s not a cry for democracy but a bitter sectarian battle for power — pitching al Qaeda and other Sunni groups against Shia Houthi rebels. The Houthi — whose stronghold is northern Yemen — swept into the capital, Sanaa, a month ago, where they met little opposition. Since then, they’ve taken control of Yemen’s second port, Hodeida, on the Red Sea.

Drone strike in Yemen believed to be on al Qaeda positions
Reuters — 24 October 2014
A U.S. drone on Friday struck positions believed to belong to Sunni Muslim al Qaeda fighters near their battlefront with arch-rivals from the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi group, tribal sources said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. The sources said the drone was used in the al-Manasseh area against Ansar al-Sharia, the local wing of Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP).

Supreme Security Committee to enforce motorcycle ban
Yemen Times — 21 October 2014
The Supreme Security Committee on Sunday announced it would begin enforcing the long-standing motorbike ban in the capital city in a move to maintain security there. The announcement came at a meeting held by the Supreme Security Committee in Sana’a in the presence of senior state security officials, according to the state-run Saba News Agency.

Weapons shipment detected in Aden
Yemen Times — 28 October 2014
The Ministry of Interior announced on Friday that it seized a weapons shipment in the port of Aden on Thursday. The ministry said it cooperated with Aden’s Customs Authority in seizing the shipment but did not specify from where it came.

Tajik Woman Doctor Goes Missing In Central Yemen
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty — 30 October 2014
A Tajik doctor has gone missing in central Yemen, and local media reports say she may have been abducted by tribal militants. Gulruhsor Rofieva, who works for Russian medical company Zdravexport in the city of Marib, has been missing since the morning of October 29. Abductions are common in Yemen, where hostages often are used by disgruntled tribesmen to press demands on authorities. But Zdravexport employee Anvar Shamsiddinov says it is against local culture and traditions to abduct a female.

Saudi Arabia/Iran:
Blowback in Yemen: Houthi Advance Is a Saudi Nightmare
Huffington Post — 20 October 2014
Nothing illustrates the free-wheeling chaos of the Middle East better than what is going on in Yemen. A small Iranian-backed North Yemeni militia, modeled on Hezbollah and from an offshoot of Shia Islam, has walked into the capital Sanaa, taken over Hodeida, Yemen’s main port on the Red Sea, and is now advancing southwards towards one of the most sensitive straits for oil traffic in the region. Cut off Bab al-Mandab, or the Mandab Strait, between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa and you make the Suez Canal redundant. The Houthi offensive, complete with chants of “Death to America, and Curse on the Jews” is being conducted under the nose of a US military base in Djibouti from where drones operated by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command base attack Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Houthis are even protecting the US embassy in Sanaa.

Grandstanding over Yemen may backfire on Iran
The National — 28 October 2014
Yemen’s Shiite Houthis may regret Tehran’s recent statements of support. Iranian MP Ali Reza Zakani, who is close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, boasted in late September that the Houthi capture of Sanaa meant that his country now controls four Arab capitals, alongside Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus. Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Mr Khamenei, said this month that Tehran supports the Houthis in their “rightful struggles”. Such statements are escalating the conflict in Yemen, and may jeopardise the gains made by the Houthis. As such, they may be wishing that Iran had kept quiet. It is unclear from these statements what kind of support Tehran is providing. It may even be mainly posturing, and in the past such claims have been denied, downplayed or unverified. However, Iran is increasingly vindicating those who have always believed that the Houthis are its proxy force in Yemen. Proponents of this view also point to the freeing of suspected members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its Lebanese ally Hizbollah following the Houthi capture of Sanaa.

Yemen worst nation for gender equality, women lag in economics, politics – report
Thomson Reuters — 27 October 2014
Yemen was the worst performer in a gender equality index released on Tuesday, which found women worldwide are almost on a par with men in terms of health and education, but lag behind in economic and political participation and opportunities. Ranked the least gender-equal of 142 countries for the ninth successive year, Yemen fared worse than Pakistan, Chad, Syria and Mali, according to the Global Gender Gap Report.

Yemen restarts main oil export pipeline after repairs
Reuters via Yahoo! — 25 October 2014
Yemen resumed exports from its main oil pipeline on Saturday, one day after an attack by tribesmen temporarily halted flows, industry sources said. Yemen’s oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged, often by tribesmen who have feuds with the central government, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the impoverished country.

Women’s electronics business emerges winner
Yemen Times — 21 October 2014
Ladies For Maintenance, a women’s only business for servicing electronics, on Saturday secured first place at Block One Business, an entrepreneurship competition in Sana’a. Along with five other projects, Ladies For Maintenance won $6,000 at the competition. The six winners will also be taught the essentials of how to establish, market, and run small businesses. The founder of Ladies for Maintenance, Maha Al-Badani, is a student of engineering at Sana’a University. She discussed her recent success with the Yemen Times and explained what motivates her.

2014 becomes the deadliest year at sea off Yemen
UNHCR — 25 October 2014
The UN refugee agency reported there has been a sharp increase this year in the number of migrants and asylum-seekers losing their lives in attempts to get to Yemen, mainly from the Horn of Africa, with more deaths at sea in 2014 than in the last three years combined. One of the recent tragic incidents took place on 2 October when 64 migrants and three crew died when their vessel, sailing from Somalia, sank in the Gulf of Aden. Since, then five more deaths bring the yearly tally for 2014 to 215, exceeding the combined total for 2011, 2012 and 2013 of 179.


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